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  • Writer's picturePatricia Dyer

Palais Garnier - Simply Beautiful!

Updated: Jul 9, 2021

Palais Garnier, Paris Opera


What comes to mind in looking at the above photographs? The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles? Michael Angelo’s fresco ceiling masterpiece at the Sistine Chapel, Vatican? Well, you would be correct on both accounts. In 1861, when the design for this room (called the Grand Foyer) was conceived, artistic inspiration was taken from both iconic structures.

To me, the Grand Foyer is definitely the most beautiful room of the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House). You remember the Paris Opera, correct? Made famous to all by the work Phantom of the Opera.

The artistic elements at Versailles were designed to reflect wealth and power; the artistic elements of the Sistine Chapel - spirituality. Here, in the Grand Foyer, Charles Garnier (architect and designer) completely outdid himself in creating a show piece of 19th century Parisian wealth, opulence and power - one that included gold leaf (yes, real gold was used for the gilding).

Instead of tiled frescos of The Creation and spirituality such as those of the Sistine Chapel, Garnier and his team created masterpieces with an emphasis on music, it’s history and various genres. Musical and theatrical symbolism is found throughout this amazing room - notice the golden lyres above each exit and the golden face of tragedy peering from a corner of the 60 ft. (18 m) high ceilings.

Historical drama!

Trend Setter, Disruptor - I’m sure Queen Isabella of Spain did not set out to be a trendsetter or disruptor of social norms. But she really wanted to see the interior of the Grand Foyer.

At the time, women were not allowed into the Grand Foyer - it was the exclusive domain of royal and wealthy men. The Foyer allowed them to gossip, negotiate and discuss world events between and after performances.

But when Queen Isabella, and her entourage simply walked into the Foyer (she was after all a queen) ...well let’s just say, the rest is history. From then on, women were allowed into the Grand Foyers or great halls of opera houses through Europe.

The Grand Foyer is really a must-see when visiting the Palais Garnier. You will not be disappointed. One of my dreams is to one day see a performance at the Palais Garnier. And between performances, elegantly glide into the Grand Foyer with a glass of champagne. Ok, not actually sure if champagne is served, but that’s my dream. 🙂🌸

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